Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quiet desperation

As I type this, I am sipping a cup of Green Mountain Vermont Country Blend Decaf and nibbling an Entenmann's Ultimate Cinnamon Pastry Twister. Just thought you'd want to know.

Do you also want know where I am? What I'm wearing? I would tell you, but by the time you read this I will surely be somewhere else, and wearing something different. And you want to know the circumstances of my life in real time, don't you?

Of course you do.

What I need is a wi-fi enabled coffee cup that will post what I'm drinking on Twitter or Facebook, even as I drink. I need clothing that will keep you apprised minute-by-minute exactly what I'm wearing, with built-in GPS so you will know where I am -- without me having to key in the info.

I know you want to know these things. I mean, doesn't everyone?

And, by the way, a report in a recent issue of Science suggests that folks with the largest social networks have more gray matter in the temporal cortex of the brain. Cause or effect? In the same issue, an experiment with monkeys kept in different size groups suggests that greater social interaction leads to more gray matter (although the experiment sounds less than convincing to me). Can Twittering and Facebook grow the brain?

Just after I posted yesterday's musing on the connected generation, I read an article in the New York Times about Google's secret research lab where they are envisioning our future, and apparently they are working on products like those I imagined above. If Google has their way, we will not only be instantly connected to each other all the time, but we will also be networked with our appliances, our furniture, even our light bulbs. My spouse will remember the days when we'd set off to visit family members in other states, and invariably wondered when we were fifty miles from home whether we shut off the oven. Well, not to worry. Soon the oven will be in touch, asking if it should turn itself off.

Yes, yes, I appreciate the irony of using Google Blogger to rant about Google. The ironies abound. I'm almost finished reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, and enjoying every minute of it, even as I play here a crotchety electronic Luddite. I take my pocket Walden for a walk in the woods, sans phone or iPod, smugly reveling in disconnected solitude, all the while harboring a secret lust for a MacBook Air.

The hermit of Walden was no hermit, but neither did he pine for constant intercourse with his neighbors. He had three chairs in his cabin, he said; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society. That sounds about right to me, gray matter be damned.